On Thursday, the Washington Post experienced a mental hiccup or a slip of the pen. It was evident in both the headline (“Facebook bans far-right leaders including Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos for being ‘dangerous’”) and lede of a story on the social media giant’s latest act of censorship:
Facebook said on Thursday it has permanently banned several far-right figures and organizations, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer, for being “dangerous,” a sign that the social network is more aggressively enforcing its hate-speech policies at a moment when bigoted violence is on the rise around the world.
Before the day was out, the Post got wind of its error and amended the title and first paragraph, also adding the following:
Correction: Louis Farrakhan is an extremist leader who has espoused anti-Semitic views. An earlier version of this story and headline incorrectly included him in a list of far-right leaders.
No reader of the Post is going to believe that Farrakhan is conservative, nor is it likely the writers of this piece, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, attempted to put one over on readers. But — big but — the error got by at least one editor.
More importantly, not all errors stemming from the mainstream media’s low opinion of the Right are quite so innocent. The Post knows this only too well, having taken its comrade in arms, The New York Times, to task in 2018 for treating a factual report as a “far-right conspiracy story.” For added irony, the erroneous information in the Times story came from Facebook Watch.
The story the Times had published disputed the claim that Palestinian officials provided payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out terrorist attacks on Israelis. The Times subsequently published a correction that began:
An earlier version of this article erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook. In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing [these] payments.
In its own take, titled “New York Times corrects its curious example of a ‘far-right conspiracy’,” the Post’s media critic Erik Wemple provided several examples of information that were readily available to the writer who authored the error-ridden Times piece.